Monday, April 30, 2007

Bush's Beatitudes

It's been nearly twenty years since I traveled to Israel with an ecumenical collection of pilgrims from Tennessee. The varied influences in my youth enabled me to appreciate all sides of the Biblical story. One afternoon, we found ourselves about five miles outside of Jerusalem on a grassy hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. A little church at the top of the hill commemorates the spot many archaeologists believe to be the location of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. One of our Christian travelers produced a New Testament and read the opening portion of the Sermon known as the "Beatitudes," a description of the blessed. As a Jew in Catholic school, I was very familiar with these verses from Catholic liturgy, but their significance seemed as basic to Catholicism as to mainstream Protestantism, and became, in my eyes, the Bill of Rights for Christianity. These sentiments, expressed by Jesus to His disciples and the gathering crowd, laid the groundwork for the common bonds of humankind and the duties of His followers toward the suffering and the poor. On that hilltop, hearing the words spoken from a Jesus eye-view, was moving to Christians and Jews alike. Lately, however, a sect of Charismatic Evangelicals, who must account for the 29% of the population who still think Bush is doing a good job, has had to provide a new translation for the Sermon on the Mount to accommodate their Faith-Based President in the troubling days of His spiritual wilderness. I offer first a quote from the actual Sermon, and then the translation; known as Bush's Beatitudes

"'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
BB: Blessed are the wealthy campaign donors to the Republican Party, who by giving generously to the Party of God, help to insure themselves a reserved seat at the right hand of the Lord.

"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
BB: Not by me, of course. I don't attend the funerals of our soldiers, but I talk to families who die. Better to let the military deal with that sort of thing. I make sure the flags are folded correctly.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
BB: Those hippies can have the damn thing as soon as my deregulations allow my corporate friends to drain the earth's remaining natural resources and sell them back to you at steep prices for gargantuan profits.

"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."
BB: Unless the righteousness for which you hunger includes government assistance, in which case, you ain't fillin' nothin' around here except forms in triplicate. We're working hard to put food on your family. The righteousness is free, but the food's gonna' cost ya.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
BB: Maybe I should have rethought that express lane in the Texas death chamber.

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
BB: Just take my word for it. God wants me to be president and rise up against Babylon. God's busy; He'll see you later.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
BB: Just as soon as we win this war.

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
BB: Alberto Gonzales died for your sins.

"Blessed are ye, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
BB: Ronald Reagan was John the Baptist; Republicans equal life, Democrats equal death; Stay the course; I 'preciate your sacrifice; God bless America.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rove? Investigate?

I must admit to an odd palpitation of the heart when it was announced by the L.A. Times that the Office of the Special Prosecutor would begin an investigation into the machinations of Karl Rove. But after doing a bit of due diligence, it's beginning to appear as if Rove himself has engineered this move. It wouldn't be out of character. Once, in Texas when his client for statewide election appeared vulnerable, Rove bugged his own office and announced it to the press shortly before election day, allowing his candidate to squeak out a victory. Rove is entirely capable of launching a bogus investigation that originates in the Executive Branch, is conducted by a Bush appointee, and is intentioned to deflect the legitimate criticism that Rove is the White House nexus behind every issue currently under congressional investigation; the Valerie Plame leak, the Prosecutor firings, and five million "missing" e-mails.

Jason Leopold reports for, that Scott J. Bloch, the head of the OSC who announced the pending investigation, was formerly at the Justice Department's Task Force for Faith-based and Community Initiatives, and was promoted by Bush three years ago to his present post. What's more, Bloch himself is under internal investigation for his alleged "purging" of the agency of unlike-minded believers and complaints by his employees, ranging, according to Leopold, from "having an anti-gay bias to criticizing employees for wearing short skirts and tight pants to work." Does anyone truly believe that this "loyal Bushie" zealot is the one to investigate Rover's activities?

I have objected previously in this post that having the President's political advisor participate in national policy decisions and be privy to the country's most sensitive secrets is a threat to representative democracy. I likened it to setting up a whorehouse in the West Wing, as opposed to the ostensibly private trysts of previous Presidents. No one can move to impeach Rove because he's accountable only to the President, and after Bush's gangbanger-style loyalty he showed for Alberto Gonzales this week, the Dubya monster will never turn on Dr. Frankenstein. But there's a new sheriff in town and Rove has never suffered from such scrutiny since his plan for a permanent Republican majority came a cropper. No wonder he was so testy at Sheryl Crow and Laurie David at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, telling them, "I work for the American people." No he doesn't. Nobody voted for Karl Rove. He works for George W. Bush and the Republican Party. And why so mean to the ladies only a month after his dynamic appearance as hip-hopper M.C.Rove, at whatever that last press-politician Swinging Suarez was? More "hop" than "hip."

Speaking of the Correspondents' Dinner, I watched the proceedings on C-Span, dumbfounded. After the Steven Colbert skewering of last year, the administration made a "Beach Boys" decision and came up with the cryogenically preserved Rich Little for the alleged entertainment. I felt that he always took his name from Little Richard, but ironically, "rich little" describes the content of his act as well. When he began to sing a ditty; Sing a little song/All about the throng in Washington, I was reminded of the Chuckles the Clown episode of Mary Tyler Moore, when his motto was, Sing a little song/do a little dance/spray a little seltzer/down your pants. If the Correspondents' desire was to avoid a YouTube frenzy like last year, they succeeded. Although the video is worth watching just to see the audience gaping in shocked silence while President Jethro chuckles like he's watching a Hee-Haw re-run. It's been a long time since Rich Little dusted off the old Nixon impersonation, although he was never as good as David Frye. You could almost see President Zero mouth the words "I am not a crook," along with the botoxed comic, just in case he needs to practice it for the future.

So once again, the world paused for just a little while, so Washington reporters and Washington politicians could join together in a bacchanalia of self congratulations; evil actors and their enablers, locked in Rovian embrace while the world burns. The single ray of hope and peace at the dinner was Sanjaya Malakar. And after the Sheryl Crow-Karl Rove dust-up, and the numbing banality of the Lee Greenwood-like pandering to the shills by Rich Little, the President made a self-serving announcement "not to be funny" in deference to the Virginia Tech shootings. That never stopped him in years' past from filming a skit looking under desks and tables in the Oval Office for fictitious "weapons of mass destruction," while our soldiers were dying in Iraq looking for the real ones. To me, that was a far worse desecration of the office than Bill Clinton could ever have imagined. Rich Little was quoted as saying that the President approached him after the dinner and told him his skit was "perfect." That, in itself, is an impeachable offense.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Imus Out The Window

A friend, we'll call him Sardou, brought my attention to Don Imus in the early seventies because he said he had a funny radio show, but I had soured on him long before he brought his act to MSNBC television. I always felt Imus was never as clever as he thought he was and was an arrogant and shameless self-promoter. What's more, he's a trash talking bully who seems to have infatuated all the Washington media types by saying things they would sometimes like to, but are restrained by common manners. That never stopped Imus. Maybe that's why they think he's so hilarious. But need I remind anyone of his universally panned performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner a few years back? Everybody's a comedian.

In the 70s, it became obvious that Imus fell in love with two things; cocaine and Richard Pryor. Anyone who heard his disastrously unfunny comedy album, circa 1979, would realize that Imus is not a racist, he's just stupid. He believed in his delusional mind that he would be the Caucasian Richard Pryor and had a nightclub act filled with the same racial epithets that Pryor used, and the same chronic use of anatomical terms. Coming from Pryor, the outrage and the irony made it funny. Only from Imus' mouth, similar words sounded sour and mean spirited. He was fortunate to have the radio voice to fall back on, but what he really wanted was a career in stand-up. As we now know, he is humor challenged.

There are sure a lot of people making apology tours these days. First, Mel Gibson with the Jews, then Kramer's night club rant and Joe Biden talking about how "clean" Barack Obama is. If Biden wanted to score racial points, he might have said that Obama is, "tired, but he's clean." Then there was the hilarious Hillary Minstrels in Selma, where Mrs. Clinton did everything but talk about her junk in the trunk. But why is it that every time one of these cracker assholes goes off the deep end, they are from Hollywood and Washington? It used to be just Southerners who were villianized as racist, but people from the south seem to have more inter-racial contacts than people elsewhere. Imus' stupid remark about the Rutgers girls' basketball team being "nappy-headed ho's," shows two things clearly; He still wishes he had the "street cred" of a Richard Pryor by attempting to sound radical, and he has no black friends or acquaintances.

Here's a little rule of thumb from the South. Remember when they told you, "If you're a child, then don't talk back?" Well, "if you're white, don't talk black." It is a condescending insult to intelligent black people everywhere to believe you think in order to communicate, you must slip into some racial patois you heard on Def Comedy Jam. People like Michael Richards and Imus may claim they are not racist and they well may be right, but their behavior shows an uncomfortableness with people of different races and a clear lack of contact with anyone other than those like themselves. This self-segregation is one of the major factors contributing to our country's racial misunderstandings, and a faux cowboy like Don Imus can say what a decent human being he is all he wants, but remove his "thug" language, and he still managed to insult a group of teenage girls without cause or concern.

I'm enjoying watching Imus squirm. I love to see a bully get their comeuppance. And if Imus is knocked from his perch of political insider, who put him there in the first place? The MSNBC two-week suspension says a great deal about that network as well. During an unprecedented call-up of National Guard troops for duty in Iraq and the Justice Department threatening to collapse under the weight of "loyal Bushies," MSNBC devoted a entire half of their nightly program, "Hardball," to the Imus story. Don Imus makes too much advertising money for them to fire him, so they must not care a great deal about offending any listeners. But corporate America always does market studies before it makes a move, and they probably decided that black people weren't their target demographic anyway. So who cares if another middle-aged white man is amused by the misogynist lyrics and language of a small group of self-denigrating people who have somehow captured the public imagination? When the hip-hop "gangsta" culture promotes this view of black women and receives billions of dollars in profits and sales, why is it surprising that an aging Richard Pryor wannabe should be emboldened to try it himself. The saddest part is that if a black comedian had said the same thing, everyone would have laughed. Imus thought he could get away with using racial humor because he is emboldened by its all too common usage in the culture. Problem was, nothing he said was remotely funny.